It’s Cat Week here on Wicked Authors. Tuesday, Clea Simon, author of the Witch Cats of Cambridge series, visited. And there’s the Wickeds’ own Cate Conte, author of the Cat Cafe Mysteries.
Today we’re pleased to host Eileen Watkins, author of the Cat Groomer Mystery series. The fifth book in the series, Claw & Disorder, has just been released.
Take it away, Eileen!
One of the biggest challenges in writing a cozy mystery series, I think, is finding legitimate ways to get your amateur sleuth involved in solving murders.
First off, these books usually take place in small towns populated by mostly decent people, and in real life how often do murders occur in such places? I skew things in my favor by setting my Cat Groomer Mystery series in a part of northwestern New Jersey picturesque enough to be an attractive “bedroom community” for wealthy executives. But fictional Chadwick also borders on a wild, mountainous area that can harbor wild animals and less affluent people. A varied population gives me a wider range of possible crimes and suspects.
My amateur sleuth’s profession, at first glance, wouldn’t seem to bring her into contact with many murderous types. But Cassie McGlone, who grooms and boards cats and lives over her shop, does meet a constant stream of people through her work. In the first book of the series, The Persian Always Meows Twice, she pays a house call to a wealthy client and finds him murdered in his study. She investigates the death of a mysterious customer who left a valuable cat at her shop in The Bengal Identity, and joins a movement to deal with feral cats at an upscale condo community in Feral Attraction. By my fourth book, Cassie has acquired a van to do mobile grooming; that brings her to a giant “cat expo,” where she offers to help a celebrity whose beloved cat had been stolen (Gone, Kitty, Gone).
To make her actions believable, I show that Cassie is not only a fervent animal lover but studied psychology in college and reads and watches a lot of mysteries. She’s driven by her concern for her customers—human and feline—but also by an intense curiosity about “whodunit” and a nagging sense that she can help to solve the crime. By the end of the first book, even the town’s crusty female detective praises her skills, and Cassie often wheedles information out of people who would hesitate to talk to a cop.
For two of these books I consulted my cousin Phil, a retired intellectual property lawyer who worked in Silicon Valley, about technological information that was far beyond my realm of expertise. I’ve watched programs about controlling feral cats and have researched particular breeds such as the Bengal, Ayesha. I’ve been to many cat shows as a spectator, and have always lived with at least one cat of my own (but never more than two). As for Chadwick, I’ve always loved strolling through small, older towns, especially those that have rebranded themselves with craft shops, trendy cafés and art galleries to attract weekend tourists.
For 35 years I covered art, architecture, interior design and home improvement for daily newspapers, so many of my plots touch on those topics, too. In my latest, Claw & Disorder, Cassie becomes embroiled in the problems of two very different households. The elderly Tillmans have allowed their ranch house to become crammed with mementos of the past, along with an unhealthy number of cats. Meanwhile, wealthy customer Gillian Foster is restoring her historic colonial home to absolute authenticity, heedless of the toll this takes on her husband and her teenaged daughter. As usual, Cassie starts out helping with their cat issues, but after a death in the first home and a life-threatening incident in the second, she begins to use her sleuthing skills, as well. How could this law-abiding version of Catwoman resist?
Besides the Cat Groomer Mysteries, Eileen Watkins, also has published equestrian and paranormal suspense novels. She has always shared her home with at least one cat and regularly visited the nearest riding stable. She belongs to Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit her online at www.efwatkins.com and www.facebook.com/EileenWatkinsAuthor.
Readers: Cats and cozy mysteries, a natural combination? What are some of your favorite mystery series featuring cats?